COMMENT: It wasn’t a vintage performance. Not one to have the pulse racing. But this “little mark”, as their manager put it. Well, the aftermath had Jurgen Klopp’s finger prints all over it.
‘We go again’. That was the theme. The mantra. First declared by Klopp. Then followed up by his Liverpool players. This was no pinnacle. No summit. Everest? Bah. What about Mars?
Beating Tottenham 2-0. Making this breakthrough. Ending that run of six consecutive Cup final defeats. Klopp, after being branded a perennial nearly man, had every right to bask in it. To just let his shoulders go. Slump. Sit back and drink it all in. Yet he hadn’t even fulfilled his post-match duties. The final whistle was still echoing around the Wanda Metropolitano. And Klopp was already moving forward.
“It is important for our development and improvement,” said the German, clearly seeing the potential of what breaking this dam will bring to his players. “This little mark helps a lot,” he added, before ominously stating, “Now we can carry on.”
The baton, typically, was picked up by those he guides. The cornerstones of Liverpool’s locker room. Men of ambition. They don’t want this “little mark” to define their careers. There’s more – much more – still to achieve.
Jordan Henderson. The captain. The one Klopp has had to publicly intervene and demand better from that section of Reds support who berate him. He channeled his manager in the aftermath. Almost to the letter.
“Football moves quickly and we will go again,” said the Mackem. “[To] show that desire to keep wanting to improve and want more trophies. That is what we have got to do.”
But Virgil van Dijk nailed it better. The Dutchman, after maintaining a 64th consecutive game of no player dribbling past him, fired a thinly veiled threat. To Manchester City. To the rest of Europe. And also to his teammates. Enjoy tonight, lads. And tomorrow. But we start again in July.
“We must be hungry. We will close this season with the Champions League, but in July everyone will start again at zero,” said Van Dijk. “We have to fight Manchester City again. We are ambitious and want to experience this type of evening more often.”
These weren’t throw away lines. Your typical football cliches. Words are one thing. Deeds another. And the reaction of Klopp and his lieutenants reflects what this dressing room has become since the manager’s arrival.
It’s why Sadio Mane signed a new contract in November. It’s why Roberto Firmino played agent to help convince Brazil teammate Fabinho to make the move last year. And it’s why Van Dijk and Alisson Becker chose Anfield ahead of all other offers. It’s about being part of something. Not just making history – but also building towards it. Liverpool are no longer a stepping stone. They’re the destination.
Going into the Champions League final, John W Henry made clear that everyone was on the same page. While the opposition centred on their lack of spending. Their manager routinely appealing in public about the need to break a two window failure of zero signings. Liverpool’s owner was just the opposite. Yes, they have spent heavily – and bought well. But no matter the result on Saturday, in terms of the market, they’ll go again.
“We’re going to have a go,” declared Henry.
“Every year we’ve shown that we’re willing to invest in the right kind of players and do it in the right way so the club is sustainable.”
The assumption being Henry was talking about being financially “sustainable”. But he might as well have spoken about being results-wise “sustainable”. Trophy-wise “sustainable”. It’s all connected. As is the ambitions. From the board room. To the manager’s office. To the locker room.
This is a new era. One to be maintained. The manager. The players. The board. They all know they’re at the start of something. An era. Liverpool’s era. But the momentum needs to not only be maintained. But protected. By ambition. By attitude. And by investment.
Klopp can see what’s on the horizon. They all can. And given his and his players’ reaction to what they’d just achieved. This “little mark” was only the beginning. Liverpool FC are back. Europe should shudder.